UFC 220: Will Long Shot Oezdemir Threaten Cormier?

UFC 220: Will Long Shot Oezdemir Threaten Cormier? article feature image

Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports

Swiss light heavyweight Volkan Oezdemir was a virtual unknown 12 months ago. But now, three wins later, the fighter dubbed “No Time” finds himself on the verge of a remarkable story as he bids to rip the UFC light heavyweight title from the grasp of former US Olympian Daniel Cormier at UFC 220 on Saturday night.

Oezdemir’s run to the title has been due in no small part to the lack of depth in the UFC’s 205lb division, but his last two outings saw him score shock knockouts over fellow contenders Misha Cirkunov and Jimi Manuwa. Oezdemir put the pair away in a combined time of just 70 seconds to book himself into an unlikely title fight with Cormier in Boston this weekend.

But two flash KOs don’t necessarily make a true title contender, and prior to those quick wins Oezdemir battled to a split-decision win over Ovince Saint-Preux who, while a high-level operator at 205lbs, isn’t remotely in Cormier’s class.

In contrast, Cormier has shown that he can dominate virtually any fighter in the world. The notable exception to that is Jon “Bones” Jones, whose well-documented troubles outside the cage have proved to be a tougher test for him than anything he’s faced inside it.

Excluding Jones, however, Cormier is perfect in the UFC. He started out at heavyweight, arriving in the UFC as the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix champion, and dominated opponents with his Olympic-level wrestling and constant pressure before dropping to 205lbs and looking even better. He out-battled Alex Gustafsson, dominated Anderson Silva and shook off Anthony Johnson’s prodigious punch power before submitting him — twice.

In Oezdemir he faces another fighter with good punching power — but probably not the same earth-shattering kind we’ve seen from Johnson. And we’ve seen that “DC” can eat opponents’ punches and keep relentlessly striding forward. It’s his ability to walk through anything and dominate fights at close quarters that has marked out Cormier as one of the UFC’s best pound-for-pound fighters, and it’s this ability that will almost certainly win him the fight on Saturday night in Boston.

Cormier is a clear favorite to win the bout, priced at -325 with 5Dimes, with Oezdemir only given a puncher’s chance at +295. But given that we’re looking at prop value rather than simply the winner, the most likely route to victory here is via a submission win for Cormier. There are many parallels in dynamic between this fight and Cormier’s bouts with Johnson, and the route to victory seems likely to be similar, too.

The Verdict

In his previous bouts with Johnson, Cormier negotiated the tricky early stages when Johnson was at his most dangerous, then pushed him up against the fence, took him to the mat, smashed him with ground and pound, then submitted him with a rear-naked choke.

It’s likely to be a case of rinse and repeat for “DC” against Oezdemir on Saturday night.